New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge
New River Gorge Bridge
Carries US 19
Crosses New River, CR 82, CSX Transportation
Locale Fayetteville, West Virginia,  United States
Maintained by West Virginia Division of Highways
Design Arch
Total length 3,030 ft (924 m)
Width 69.3 ft (21.1 m), 4 lanes with center divider
Longest span 1,700 ft (518.2 m)
Vertical clearance Deck arch, unlimited clearance
Clearance below 876 ft (267 m)
Opened October 22, 1977
Daily traffic 16,200 vehicles/day[1]
Coordinates 38°04′15″N 81°04′48″W / 38.07083°N 81.08°W / 38.07083; -81.08Coordinates: 38°04′15″N 81°04′48″W / 38.07083°N 81.08°W / 38.07083; -81.08
New River Gorge Bridge is located in West Virginia

The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet (924 m) long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. With an arch 1,700 feet (518 m) long, the New River Gorge Bridge was for many years the world's longest arch bridge;[2][3] it is now the third longest.[4] Part of U.S. Route 19, its construction marked the completion of Corridor L of the Appalachian Development Highway System. The bridge is crossed by an average of 16,200 motor vehicles per day.[1]

The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet (267 m) above the New River,[3] making it the fifth highest vehicular[5] bridge in the world, and the third highest in the Americas (behind the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge over the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, bypassing the Hoover Dam) and the Royal Gorge Bridge. When it opened in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge was the highest vehicular bridge in the world, a record it kept until the 2004 opening of the Millau Viaduct in France. Several suspension bridges in China have since surpassed both of these bridges in height, with the current record holder being the Si Du River Bridge which opened in November 2009, with 1,549 feet (472 m) of clearance above the Si Du River.

In 2005, the structure was further immortalized when a depiction of the span was placed on the West Virginia state quarter.



The old U.S. 19 bridge over the New River, over 800 ft (244 m) below the canyon rim.

Construction began on the bridge in June 1974, and completed on October 22, 1977. It was designed by the Michael Baker Company, under the direction of Chief Engineer Clarence V. Knudsen, and executed by U.S. Steel's American Bridge Division. Final cost of construction was $37 million (approximately $4 million over bid). It is made from COR-TEN steel. The use of COR-TEN in construction presented several challenges; notable among them was ensuring that the weld-points weathered at the same rate as the rest of the steel.[citation needed]

Completion of the bridge cut the travel time from one side of the gorge to the other from about 45 minutes to 45 seconds.[3][6]


View of the New River Gorge Bridge from the National Park Service Overlook

The New River Gorge Bridge is within the National Park Service's New River Gorge National River, which protects this portion of the New River Gorge. At the northern end of the bridge, the Park Service operates a visitor center with scenic overlooks and a staircase that descends part of the way into the gorge.

A steel catwalk two feet (60 cm) wide runs the full length of the bridge underneath the roadway. Originally built to facilitate inspections, the catwalk is open for guided, handicapped-accessible quarter-mile "Bridge Walk" tours using safety rigging.[3][7][8]

The bridge is the centerpiece of Fayette County's "Bridge Day", held the third Saturday of every October.[3] This festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending, and BASE jumping,[9] Bungee jumping, however, has been banned during Bridge Day since 1993. The bridge is closed to vehicular traffic during the festival; until recently,[when?] two of the bridge's four lanes were open to traffic during the festivals, but security concerns have now prompted the closing of the entire span to vehicles during these events.[citation needed]

The first person to jump off the New River Gorge Bridge was Burton Ervin, who lives in Cowen, West Virginia, and was a coal-mine foreman. Burton jumped on Friday, August 1, 1979, using a conventional North American Aerodynamics Mini Rig System with a 32-foot Lopo canopy. Four BASE jumpers have died at the bridge, three of these during Bridge Day festivals,[10][11][12] and one other killed while performing an illegal jump.[citation needed]


References and notes

  1. ^ a b "WVDOH: 2006 Fayette County Traffic Counts". West Virginia Division of Highways. 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  2. ^ George R. Carter, Jr. "Mind the Gap: Building the World's Longest Steel-Arch Bridge," American Heritage, April/May 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d e Green, Diana Kyle (October 2011). "Fayette County High". Wonderful West Virginia: 4–7. 
  4. ^ The Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, China, completed February 8, 2003, is now the longest steel arch bridge by 32 m (105 ft), although the New River Gorge Bridge remains the longest of its particular type.
  5. ^ The non-automotive Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, USA, a suspension bridge, has a higher deck than either the New River Gorge Bridge or even the Millau Viaduct, at 1,053 ft (321 m) above the Arkansas River.
  6. ^ "Images of West Virginia". The Best of West Virginia. The Gallery. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  7. ^ "Bridge Walk". Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  8. ^ Green, Diana Kile (October 2011). "Bridge Walk Wows". Wonderful West Virginia: 8–9. 
  9. ^ "BASE" is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs).
  10. ^ Complete Bridge Day History
  11. ^ BASE Jumping Fatality List
  12. ^ "Californian Dies in Bridge Day Jump When Chute Fails to Open in Time". Huntington News. 2006-10-22. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 

See also

External links

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